Posted on: 16 March 2013

The Sun Temple at Konarak - 1847

This is plate 3 from James Fergusson's 'Ancient Architecture in Hindoostan'. The sun temple at Konarak is one of the most famous of all India's temples, and considered a supreme achievement of Oriya architecture. Europeans in Fergusson's time knew it as the Black Pagoda, a reference to deserted sites that locals described as kala, meaning empty.

The structure was designed to represent the sun god Surya's chariot, pulled by seven horses, with its 24 wheels decorated with symbolic designs. Believed to have been built in the mid-13th century by Narasimhadeva of the Eastern Ganga dynasty, the temple lapsed into ruin when the 227 feet high main tower, collapsed. The exterior is richly decorated with sculpture, some of which dismayed Fergusson by its "obscenity". Nonetheless, he admired it; writing: "There is altogether so much consonance in the parts and appropriateness in the details, that the effect of the whole is particularly charming."

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India should not have forgotten Fergusson..its sad they hv except few learned circles..who just drop his names in air-conditioned seminar halls

Beautiful architecture. Can anyone from that area tell what's left of it now ? Any link with pics ?

It's just 15 or 20km north of Puri.

The 800 years old Sun God Chariot Temple at Konark.Wonderful

AmaaaaaaaaaaaaZing.... Is There Any Ruin Is Left????

Its one of the finest archtecture I have ever seen !

I hear that there was a giant magnet on top and because of the stones has some metal in it it did hold the whole structure together! After the muslims blow up the temple the british took the magnet so it finaly started to crumble apart. Now it is World Heritage site! Thanks God! It did probably looked like the Puri temple!

@Haroon Jalil , a simple google search wil give you what you're looking for.

Tradícionális India, no, it didnot look like the puri temple. If you notice closely, the architectural designs (shapes) are very different.

The temple actually had a huge maghetic stone in the foundations and another one at the top. Because of the magnetic force of both of the stones, the sun God's idol made of ashtadhaatu actually floated mid-air in the sanctum sanctorum.

What Fergusson tagged as obscenity was actually one part of a three-tier architectural system. At the very base of the temple(till about three feet) you will see children’s stories depicted from panchatantra as that’s how far children will be able to see. The middle part of the temple was depicted with erotic figurines from kamasutra as the young folks will generally look right at the front and will see the erotica. Buddhism was at its peak at that time and a lot of youngsters wanted to shun the material world and become monks. The erotic images was made so as to lure them back to the material world. Finally towards the top of the temple, the temple is decorated with mythological and religious figurines as old people had a tendency to look up towards the mast of the temple that was believed to bring in Blessings. So more than a random piece of architecture, the Konark temple is a masterpiece of well thought architecture which catered to all age groups and mentalities.

The Sun Temple was built, akin to similar efforts in the Vijayanagara and Nayaka kingdoms, to mark a victory over Muslim aggression. The ascetic practice of Buddhism has always been limited to its monastic order, and wide acceptance of it could not have been a general threat (though, down south, the persecutions of Jains did occur in the later centuries by the Pandyas). Moreover, work of amorous intent was a part of Buddhist artistic expression. Hinduism is uniquely distuingshied from several other religions by its heavy emphasis on sociological application of philosophy, that is, efforts to organise society so as to draw humanity to the ultimate goals of life as preached by its saints. This is almost exclusively intended for that section, invariaby the most numerous, who are not yet weary of the outward path of life, that is, the path of Self-Assertion characterised by worldly pursuis. Those further ahead on this path, already satiated with the sensory world, enter an inward movement of Self-Realzation and are prescribed ascetic codes. Hinduism seeks to goven the material(Artha) and sensory(Kama) worlds of the Self-Assertive masses by social codes, called Purusharthas, subject to the moral law of Dharma that seeks to protect the weak from the strong. These are explicated in the respective popular shastras (or sutras) of Kautilya, Vatsayana and the epics. Since temples and other places of worship are designed to represent such a cosmos, due attention is given to the representation of each of these three components. The amorous elements, notably the maithunas and references to sexual congress, suggest the spiritual joy of Kama, and not passion or lust which are among those emotions listed as the enemies of man. The Konark Temple is second only to the complex at Khajuraho in the popularity of such depictions.

haroon jalil u can c it on my pro pix.

tradicionalis India u r right about that magnet..

Hello Mr. Patnaik. Could you hand me some references about the three tiered idea you state? I looked some sources up but could not locate them. My earlier comment above lists the reasons why civil and erotic themes are used in Indian architecture.

>> What Fergusson tagged as obscenity As I said before, one can not expect some one like Fergussan coming from his value system to be able to appreciate India in significant manner. Some limitations are to be expected.

K.C. Panigrahi, a historian of Orissa, believes that the obscene figures were in all probability meant to test the self-restraint of a visitor before he was entitled to reap the merits of his visit to the god. Another explanation offered is that the erotic figures are inspired by Tantric rituals. A further explanation is that erotic sculptures are meant to ward off lightning and thunder. Although various such explanations are offered for the depiction of eroticism in the Konarak sculptures, Coomaraswamy’s holistic explanation appears to be more authentic. He says that such a characteristic feature of the temple architecture in India could be thought of as a representation of the rightful place of ‘voluptous ecstasy’in life. The erotic sculptures of Konarak reflect the life and vitality of the times; they are the expressions of a happy people who took delight in the pursuit of pleasure. The total frankness, lack of guilt, and the expression of mutual enjoyment and zest expressed through these sculptures have been noted by Nihar Ranjan Ray and Abanindra Nath Tagore, Prof. K.S. Behera, a noted historian agrees with these explanations and accepts this as most credible in his latest book “Konarak, the Black Pagoda” published by the Publications Division of the Government of India.

The black pahoda,wonderful peace of the earth.

I feel proud to be an odiya When ever I see the traces of excellence,like this, of our forefathers.

nice to see our earlier Konark

very good picture sir....................

Posting my recent picture..


The Sun Temple of Konarak is the identification of Odisha's architect. Really Amazing